Editor’s Note: What better way to celebrate the impact of incentive travel than by producing an event that brought the “wow” of a motivational experience to life? Smart Meetings asked Joe Fijol, managing partner for Florida with 360 Destination Group, to share a glimpse behind the stage for Incentive Research Foundation’s 26th annual education event at Loews Miami Beach Hotel.

Decor established an indoor-outdoor feel

Biggest Challenge: The group occupied a record number of hotel spaces and the team simultaneously had to coordinate logistics of transforming spaces with dramatically reduced lead times.

Solution: A hybrid team worked closely and met regularly with the Loews team. They created new support positions, crafted an operations plan with to-the-minute timelines (loading dock master, engineering, banquets, conference services, shipping, AV, and food and beverage) and developed a custom strategy for reusing decor pieces.

Interactive Elements in Opening Reception: Live sand sculpting, balloon darts painting, 10-foot-tall giant coloring book, moving desserts on conveyor belt, two separate musical acts—a five-piece band in one area and DJ/drum combo with 12-foot-high LED video wall in another—graffiti artists on scaffolding, locally sourced beer flight station, life-sized magazine photo opportunity, fireworks show, collage artist Derek Gorse, blender bikes (spin for spirits), mojito-making classes, Cuban painters, fedora-fitting station, cigar roller, live coconut chopping, dominoes games with instructors, rum tasting station with locally distilled rum, six live hand models passing out drinks from behind a 10-foot-long branded wall, Latin dancers, LED beverage tray dresses on models, outdoor hotel lighting that changed colors throughout the night and a 50-foot-long graffiti “red carpet” model.

Elevated F&B added fun to meals

Interactive Elements on Final Day: The closing featured multiple giveaways, a prosecco cart, games, interactive food and beverage, 35,000 pounds of sand inside a ballroom, video mapping, interactive food stations, photo opportunities, raised cabana areas, custom lifeguard uniforms for banquet staff and usable hammocks in the 4-foot-wide sand island area. The headline act was, fittingly, Flo Rida.

Focal Point: The second night, the sand island in the ballroom was surrounded by projection mapping to bring the outside space inside. That was spectacular.

Success Measurement: Social media feedback using the hashtag #IRFMiami was tremendous during and after the conference. Post-conference, both the hotel and destination booked business as a result.

Lessons Learned: How to calculate the weight of a 40-foot-wide by 6-foot-deep sand island, the importance of creative and detailed contingency planning during Florida’s rainy season (thankfully we didn’t need it) and how to develop a plan that resulted in a flawless execution of five simultaneous load-ins for different spaces at one time.